She started playing soccer when she was four.

We enrolled her in club soccer when she was eight and drove all over the Carolinas for practices, games, and tournaments. It was hard on the family. And on our checkbook. But she was good, and professed to love the sport.


After four years in club, we decided to see whether she might like other sports. So we introduced softball and swimming. She excelled at both making her middle school team as a 7th grader and starting center fielder without having ever played a game, and winning the city championship in breast stroke (two years running).

She continued to play rec soccer and also made her middle school team. And for the first time since she was five, she got to play offense. Her club coaches used her on defense as a stopper (see video above). And, because of her fearlessness, she was good at it. After that first fall season in rec and middle school, it became clear that she was pretty good at offense, too.

Over the years she’s grown as a player, and I’ve grown in my understanding of the sport (it took me a while to even comprehend offsides). Both her middle school and rec coaches have lauded her ability and leadership. When she’s on the field, she’s talking the whole time.

One of her coaches approached me last fall and said, “She’s great. And I don’t mean just really good. Great. She can go as far as she is willing to work in this sport.” He played college ball and is now a judge, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. He continued, “But it’s not why you’d think. Yes, she’s fast, quick, and has a strong and accurate leg, but it’s something else. It’s her vision. She sees the whole field when she’s playing. It’s remarkable.”

Never the biggest or fastest, it became clear this year that she was almost always the best player on the field. However, as a result, she played most of her contests with a bullseye on her back. It’s hard for a dad to watch when your daughter is getting hammered by bigger, slower kids all game as they try to take her out. At one point a few weeks ago I asked her, “How does it make you feel when they’re grabbing and pushing you out there?” She replied, “It makes me want to score.” Her competitive fire is something you don’t teach.

This spring she decided to give everything to soccer. And boy did it show. She finished up her middle school and rec career last weekend. In 19 games since March, she scored 32 goals and had 15 assists leading her teams to a combined 12-6-1 record.

Since 2005, I’ve only missed one of her games. Not only has she grown up right before my eyes playing this sport, but she’s entering into another phase with soccer. We’re going back to club soccer in the fall, and next spring she will be trying out for high school. High school. Unbelievable. And not just any high school, but one of the best schools in the state of North Carolina for women’s soccer – Myers Park.

It’s a humbling and beautiful thing to realize that your daughter is a better athlete than you ever were.

left foot



Jim Mitchem

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.